PhD Opportunity – Deakin University, supervised by Professor John Arnould
Globally, seabirds are considered the group of avian species at most conservation risk from anthropogenic impacts. Knowledge of their habitat needs and responses to environmental variability is crucial to predicting how these species may respond to changes in their ecosystems.
While extensive research has been conducted on foraging ecology and habitat use in seabirds during the breeding season, comparatively little information is currently available for many species on the winter non-breeding period. However, this annual phase is known to be the most detrimental for adult survival in seabirds, with winter conditions also having carry-over effects for the next breeding season.
In addition, the conditions encountered during this time by juvenile birds, especially in their first year after fledging, can determine recruitment into the breeding population. Therefore, knowledge of the factors influencing winter habitat use, and how it impacts foraging success, survival and future breeding performance, is vital for understanding the drivers of population dynamics in these species.
The Australasian gannet is an important marine predator species in south-eastern Australia, contributing to substantial fish and squid biomass consumption over the region’s continental shelf. The area is also one of the fastest warming oceanic regions in the world, with anticipated alterations to oceanographic currents expected to lead to changes in the diversity, distribution and abundance of prey species.
This project will determine the at-sea movements, habitat-use and foraging ecology, and investigate their relationships with survival and future breeding success, in juvenile and adult Australasian gannets. The study will be conducted at two breeding colonies in northern Bass Strait that experience contrasting oceanographic regimes.
For this PhD project, we are looking for a candidate with extensive field experience, well-developed statistical/numerical skills and writing ability.
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